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2012-11-04 Basteln

Unser Projekt dieses Wochenende: ein QCLOCKTWO Nachbau mit Anleitung aus dem Internet. Wir brauchen noch einen dritten Tag. Bastelheld Uwe Funk hat Claudia und mich und ein paar weitere Kollegen vom Geschäft dabei unterstützt: das Material beschafft, vorbereitet, organisiert, Geräte ausgeliehen, geholfen, beraten, aufgeheitert und ermutigt. Ich vermute, dass ich es ohne Uwe nie geschafft hätte!

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2012-11-08 Temple of Set

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I used 13 acolytes of Set: HD 2 AC 4 D 1d6 SV 15 ML 9 with chain and shield, long knives; they like to cast inflict light wounds in the first round of combat; and a priest HD 7 AC 4 D 1d6 SV 10 ML 10 with the following spells: sticks to snakes, animal growth, charm snake, talk to animals, dispel magic, hold person, fear, blindness and some others I have not determined. The snakes have HD 1 AC 6 D 1d4 SV 16 ML 7. If enlarged, HD 5 AC 6 D 2d6 (no need to roll in subsequent rounds as it keeps constricting) SV 15 ML 8. Use the same stats if he charms the giant python he keeps in the snake pit and sends it after the party.

I used badger people for slaves. The party decided to drop yellow mold down into the flesh pit, followed by burning wood drenched in oil. I decided this killed 4 acolytes, all the rats and all the snakes in the snake pit. Actually, it burnt the rats, suffocated the acolytes and turned the vipers into yellow mold. When faced with a pit of yellow mold, they wondered about washing it down by ripping down the pipe with running water but then decided to just burn it using more oil.

I had two acolytes taking a bath without armor and they were killed quickly. The session ended with the party discovering the secret door, continuing into the prayer hall and trying to draw the acolytes into a fight at the choke point. The priest has been sending nine little snakes and a giant python… And the session ended with a cliff hanger!

(The party also consists of nearly twenty characters including five giant apes.)

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2012-11-10 Borderlands

Today I’ve bought Borderlands. I don’t know why, exactly. I switched on the Xbox, fully expecting to be playing some The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Then I saw the ad for some Borderlands 2 stuff, and I thought that I hadn’t played a good shooter in a long time. The old game was available for download and cheap ($19), and I had been thinking of Jet Set Radio for a while. The cell shading mesmerized me. Now that I’ve played it for a bit, I’m sensing boredom around the corner because of the repeated “get quest, move there, fight, move back…” (I must admit that I have the flu, so that might explain it all.)

I really enjoyed playing Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 1 & 2. What would you recommend? The review I read about Future Soldier basically said that the best part was mutliplayer online gameplay – something I’m not planning to engage in.

Back in the days I also liked Medal of Honor: Frontline. There was a mission on a train, however, that proved to be too much for me. I was frustrated and never finished it.

I guess I’m spoiled!

  1. I want more realism and tactics like in G.R.A.W.
  2. I want more radical differences in missions like in Medal of Honor
  3. I want more meaningful plot elements like in Sykrim

I’m just happy that Borderlands doesn’t keep spewing forth enemies like the Call of Duty games. I hate it when the game forces me to advance instead of letting me pick off enemies from a distance before moving in.

One thing I really like right now is the soundtrack.

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Comments on 2012-11-10 Borderlands


Andreas Gohr
I’m on my second play through of Borderlands 2 currently. Somehow it doesn’t get boring for me. Unlike Skyrim which overwhelmed me with the amount of quests and the time they needed!

Get well soon.

Andreas Gohr 2012-11-11 09:32 UTC


The overwhelming number of Skyrim quests is in fact a bit of a problem for me, I agree.

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-11 12:41 UTC

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2012-11-17 How To Build A Dungeon

Recently, Brendan Strejcek started a discussion on Google+ regarding an observation that Michael Pfaff had made: there don’t seem to be many how to build a good dungeon guides out there.

Here’s mine. Let me provide some context: I like short dungeons. These dungeons would all make good candidates for the One Page Dungeon Contest even if they’re usually a lot less sophisticated compared to other entries. I think this is important: if you’re not planning on publishing your dungeon, don’t use published dungeons for comparison.

This is why my dungeons are shorter, the map is cruder, the key is terse. Here’s a typical example:

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For more generic advice on how to run a campaign, see my Swiss Referee Style Manual. For more specific advice on how to build adventures for higher levels, see How To Write A Module. If you need a checklist, see Quality Dungeons.

I’ll be citing examples from the following three dungeons in my discussion below.

Almost all my dungeons start as a lair of some sort. I usually go with what the campaign needs or by leafing through monster manuals, or both. → It’s an old water temple overrun with kuo-toas. It’s an old gnomish home overrun with ogres. It’s a pyramid where the priests of Set are sacrificing badger people to the snakes.

All my dungeons must offer some sort of initial mission. There must be a reason beyond loot for my players to go there. Usually there is an initial goal provided by the campaign. → Get rid of the fish heads and the flying monkey will join the fight against the lizard men. Return to the home of your ancestors and retrieve the hidden family library. Get rid of the priests of Set and badger men will let your merchants join the harvest of the giant lotus.

Most of my dungeons must offer some sort of significant treasure. I feel that rolling up random treasure according to the usual tables is most often not interesting enough. Special magic items work well for me. They are part of character advancement. They can serve as plot hooks to more adventures as the items are required to defeat certain foes, attract former owners, form part of a set. → The ogre mage has found the legendary sword Swampfire. The priest of Set has one of the ten rings of Qwaar the Axiomatic.

The dungeons must offer more than one faction. This is how I introduce interesting non-player characters and invite negotiations allowing the party to turn factions against each other. Factions can also serve as a pool for new henchmen and replacement player characters. → The water temple also houses an evil necromancer. The ogres have captive halflings that need to be rescued. The priests of Set have enslaved badger people.

Most of my dungeons have a trick or trap. Something that the players need to think through and overcome. → The water temple has a section that can be reached by an underwater tunnel. The final tunnel is protected by pit traps such that finding the first one is easy but jumping over it will dump you into the second one. The temple is protected by a pit of vipers and the characters can’t fly. If they can talk to animals, charm snakes, or use the yellow mold they encountered on the way here, that will avoid a fight against poisonous animals.

Often, there are alternatives to bypass these challenges. These alternatives provide challenges of a different nature such that players can make a meaningful choice. → There is a stirge infested secondary approach in case the players don’t want to dive through the underwater tunnels. There is a crack in the ceiling leading to a room guarded by a wraith. The shaft where sacrifice is dumped leads into the heart of the complex, bypassing the pit of vipers. It’s connected to the pit of rats, however. There is an underground river connecting important rooms, but it is infested with ghouls.

I try to incorporate a tactical challenge as well. → The tunnels make it possible for the kuo-toa to outflank and encircle the party. There are too many ogres for the party to take straight on. The ogres are asleep, however. If the party manages to avoid all noise, it is doable. The priest fights on a narrow bridge above a snake pit.

I avoid linear maps. There is no player choice involved.

In order to satisfy the urge for exploration, I like to add a few rooms that make sense. Not every dungeon needs a bathroom, but it’s cool if there are bodies of water, ventilation shafts and other mundane elements that players can explain to themselves. → A tunnel at the far end leading into the underworld. Animal lairs near the entrance. A pit full of rats to eat the dead. The rats are in turn used to feed the vipers.

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Comments on 2012-11-17 How To Build A Dungeon


AlexSchroeder
There was also some interesting opposition to the idea that such a how to build a dungeon post might be useful to beginners. Zak Smith said: “What should someone read before making their first dungeon? Not that many things. Very few things. This will avoid intimidating them or deceiving them into thinking the task is hard or requires a great deal of specialized knowledge. What should someone read after making and running a few dungeons? Everything. All things. An OSR worth of things.”

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-18 09:01 UTC



Lior
How do you handle the day-to-day bits of dungeoneering at your table? Like: how do you handle lighting, food & drink? Do you have rules for camping, guard duty, healing, i.e., undergrounds? How much effort goes into keeping track of encumbrance or calculating movement speed? And do you do random encounters in dungeons and how elaborate are your procedures for that? And how do your groups react and adapt, how does it affect play?

I ask because I remember from my dungeoneering times that when I tried to follow more of the rules for dungeon adventures (this is was D&D Red Box and AD&D 2nd), I felt like doing quite a lot of bookkeeping. My group camped when they need to heal or to refresh their spell list. Leaving a dungeon for boring reasons like dwindling provisions was not uncommon.

Some of this may not be particular to underground adventuring and a lot was probably due to my lack of experiences and insight into GMing. Still I feel like the wilderness leaves more space to negotiate with the world (and its rules) than then constraint environment of a dungeon. So, to take up Zak’s comment: Maybe designing a dungeon is easy, but playing a dungeon well is not straight-forward, or at least it does not follow directly from the classic game text as I read it.

Or maybe I just did it wrong and nobody else encountered those issues?

– Lior 2012-11-18 20:42 UTC


Good questions, all of them. I should write “How To Run A Dungeon”. :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-19 13:14 UTC


Recommended reading:

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-20

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2012-11-26 Caverns of Slime

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A long time ago, I wrote Caverns of Slime for Fight On! #14. Lior Wehrli pushed me to be more experimental with dreams and visions. Thank you! At the time, some brave souls drew very nice pictures to go along with this dungeon level. Thank you very much, Ndege Diamond and Kelvin Green. As it seems that Fight On is on a de facto hiatus, I’m going to make the Caverns of Slime “public”. Thus, if you’re interested in dungeon level 13 of the Fight On! megadungeon Darkness Beneath, there you go. :)

When I asked for an editor on the forum, Chris Roberts volunteered. English not being my first language, I felt that getting an editor is very important. Having acted as an editor myself (Stonehell, Theorems & Thaumaturgy), I know how boring it can be and how much discipline it requires. So, thank you very much for volunteering!

As the editing process got underway, we moved from the wiki to Open Office, and that’s why the PDF version differs from web version. The PDF is available as well, of course. There is a ton of advice on how to do layout out there, but I also have finite patience and skill. I guess I’ll keep returning to the PDF every now and then. Something about the ease of editing makes me want to stick to the wiki when updating the adventure. Perhaps all I will need to do, however, is make sure the PDF looks good as I add another picture or two. Having more pictures is always a good thing.

The wiki version is more radical in its approach to emphasis: it uses a lot more bold to draw the referee’s attention to what I felt was important. For the PDF, this was toned down. If you, gentle reader, have an opinion on the generous use of bold, please leave a comment.

When I wrote Caverns of Slime, I tried to follow my own advice on how to design a high level dungeon. Unfortunately, I only got to play test parts of it. If you ever use it or parts of it, leave a comment. I’d love to hear how it went—and maybe we could make changes to the dungeon and keep making it better and better.

The same is true for more art: If you ever draw something from the big list, I’d love to add it! At the time I suggested the following items to Calithena—perhaps the list will help you decide whether the Caverns of Slime is something you’d be interested in running.

  • traveling on the river Styx with giant eels in the water and/or up to 60 ghouls marching on the shore; possibly with a catapult and launching ghouls with kites; possibly with a bulbous demon in a pompous cart surrounded by lemurs and two psychic lampreys
  • an underground lake with bubbles popping and floating eyes rising from the water
  • a beholder rising from an underground lake, the air filled with floating eyes
  • a raft with froglings on an underground lake
  • orcs on air sharks throwing flasks of green slime
  • a panzer ship in Jules Verne steampunk style operated by a crew of forty headless zombies and defended by forty hungry ghoul archers the captain of a panzer ship guarded by two brass golems
  • a huge reception hall with a stair zig-zagging up five floors at the far end; 300 zombies standing between you and the next door at the top of the stairs
  • a round hole in a brass wall with a huge toothy ether whale silently trying to push through a wall of flesh into the room the mother brain the size of a small house in a liquid behind a blue glass wall, a mind flayer in the same room
  • a constant mass of meat and bones and mud pours through a planar gate and drives the turbines and cog wheels of the blood engines; there are several melancholy zombies watching over the mess
  • out of the mist rises a white, filigree sponge pyramid, a fractal construction without a clear separation of rooms or corridors, no furniture, no tools, no people
  • swan ships (can throw hundreds of yards of animated silk up into the air, like fluttering wings; this will break a fall and allow the boat to sail over waterfalls)
  • an eight-armed monstrosity of steel and a few organic elements of human descent
  • a big cavern; on the ceiling, you see a glowing city with light bubbles and hanging bridges and gray webbing holding everything together
  • canals with steep walls, and along the walls, thousands of barred windows; cages are hanging from chains, carried by cranes, flocks of imps cling to every handhold and dance around big braziers
  • a whale sorcerer
  • a siren chained to the wall behind a writhing mass of white-yellow tentacles with scythe-tips and two baleful eyes (a vampire octopus rising from the water)
  • one-eyed crow priestess of the orcs and her four orc witches are bargaining with a hanging tree; its branches are loaded with twitching corpses: armless ghouls are hanging up there, unable to free themselves
  • a black tent illuminated with a hundred candles; the altar is full of dried blood, many curse scrolls and skulls are hanging in the darkness above; here lives an orc witch
  • a room with a floor hundred of feet below; in between is a mess of stairs, passages, hanging vats, huge distilling machineries and vats, hundred of vats with half formed creatures churning, trying to climb out, and dissolving again
  • a dwarven cave carved into stone; marble columns covered in golden flowers, alcoves housing statues of armed angels, at the very center of the complex under a soaring cupola, illuminated by magic from above is the dwarven slime sorcerer himself, writing in his research notebook and protected by an iron protector golem

(The pieces that I have are marked up using strike out in the list above.)

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Comments on 2012-11-26 Caverns of Slime

I also sent a message to ant on the forum for this awesome piece.

– Alex


I will also release FO material I’ve finished if circumstances remain the same. I have the entire Dark Troll Citadel ready to be keyed; I don’t think it should be omitted from the mega-dungeon.

Lee B 2012-11-26 18:10 UTC



AlexSchroeder
If all the authors did it, we could publish Fight On! #14 while Calithena recuperates. :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-27


So is it dead in the water then?

AndreasDavour 2012-11-26 19:52 UTC



AlexSchroeder
I don’t know, really. From the outside, it looks as if Calithena is still around, but other priorities have taken over. I think it’s quite understandable and our misfortune is that Fight On! doesn’t have a dedicated team that can take over. A single person effort also has a single point of failure. It would seem to me that we’d need a handful of people to help out or take over.

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-26 23:00 UTC


Calithena seems to be back! Excellent news indeed. ok :)

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-30 21:27 UTC

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2012-11-28 Mapping using Inkscape

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I recently decided to “publish” my high level module Caverns of Slime. To the right, you can see the various stages my map went through. And you can see that the entire process started out with map. The map was the backbone of all subsequent activities.

It all started with the first map at the top. Things that made it from the very first draft to the very end:

  1. the ring like structure with a water flow leading to the Ooze Lord in the center
  2. the lab of one of my former player characters, Gar
  3. Shroom Lord (I wanted some continuity with the level above)
  4. orcs on landsharks throwing bottles of green slime
  5. Prison of Dis
  6. Aranea city
  7. Eternal Swamps
  8. ghouls

Things that got lost:

  1. were rats (boring unless transformed in interesting ways)
  2. poison flowers (what’s interesting about poison flowers? the Eternal Swamps ended up being not so evil…)
  3. sauro-eels (but giant eels remained)
  4. “sulfur levels of clockhouse wheels” – a kind of evil Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus (the evil fusion of men and machine reappeared in the Fortress Dam of Ix)
  5. refugees of the fungus forest (the level above didn’t seem to have any refugees)
  6. rock giant with moss (I feel that giants don’t fit thematically)
  7. dread mages of the shroom kings (which kings? what’s interesting about dread?)

Also note how I abandoned my detailed isometric map in step two. As I drew it, I kept dreading the moment where I’d have to key it and I kept thinking that at higher levels, the party would be flying, teleporting, gating, or pass walling anyway.

As for the final map: I just drew it all using Inkscape. I wanted to write more about it, but in the end, all I did was draw lines, using a lot of Ctrl+L to simplify the paths and then editing the nodes using F2 to make it look better. Every section was on a different layer so that I could lock the rest. The most important decision was to work on paper for the longest time.

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Comments on 2012-11-28 Mapping using Inkscape


Simon Forster
I do most of my maps in Inkscape, sometimes by first sketching them out, but often just playing about with it.

Simon Forster 2012-11-28 11:46 UTC


So you’re saying that you don’t doodle on paper before you turn to Inkscape? I only remember a few maps that I did in Inkscape directly: those were maps I did for Fight On! where the author of the adventure had already provided the doodle—such as this one:

http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1066/4599297648_5e50bf3f2c.jpg

AlexSchroeder 2012-11-28 13:50 UTC

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2012-11-29 Temptation of Imps

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8060/8228996727_6c51d4df40.jpg

This post contains a reusable element from my Caverns of Slime adventure.

At one point, the characters are traveling in hell. Imps are watching. The party is in trouble: they need help fighting a powerful enemy, the need help an ally, they need to find a guide, something. The idea is to present the players with a choice and long term consequences: let the players decide how easily the characters is corrupted, or let the player decide how much their character is willing to suffer in order to avoid dealing with the devil – any decision is fine as long as it’s the result of a struggle, a result of being confronted with temptation.

Here’s what the section in the adventure says:

Whenever player characters cannot make up their mind or whenever they are in danger, have imps and devils come up and offer to help – for a price. They will enter a pact with player characters. Once the details have been hashed out, a pact requires a simple act to seal it. When a pact is broken by a player character, the character will suffer a curse.

d6Pact Price Seal Curse
1I will lead you to somebody who can help.In return, you will fight for me when I summon you.To seal this pact, you will wear this amulet with the copulating monkeys. Atempting to take it off will strangulate you.If you don’t give your utmost to win the fight, these monkeys will animate and grow and do their utmost to wreck your neighbours, your family and your friends.
2I will lead you to somebody who will help.In return, you will wear this hell sigil in your face for a year and a day, invisible to all except for those that can detect evil.To seal this pact, I brand you with this painful hell iron.If you fail to do this for me, you will have sown the seed of evil in the hearts those near you, triggering an alignment change, if appropriate.
3I will summon somebody who can help you.In return, you will forswear fighting all demons and devils for a year and a day.We will drink each other’s blood in order to seal this pact.Should you break this pact, your muscles will wither and shrink. You will loose 4 Strength.
4I will summon somebody who will help you.In return, you will donate one tenth of any treasure found (not just your share of the treasure!) to evil deeds for a year and a day.To seal this pact, you shall wear this ring of mine.If the pact is not kept, this ring will poison you and you shall die. You can never take it off, obviously.
5I will help you.In return, you will suffer for seven long weeks in hell when you die. You cannot be resurrected in that time.To seal this pact, I will take a lock of your hair and keep it safe.Even if you are rescued before you served your time, I shall keep your mind locked up. Your body will be but an ordinary, 0-level mortal until your time is up.
6I will solve this issue for you.In return, your soul belongs to me and you can never be resurrected.To seal this pact, I shall cut off your hand and replace it with this bejeweled gauntlet.Anybody attempting to rescue you will have to face treachery and greed every step of the way.

The above table only makes sense if there is temptation. The party must want the help being offered. Some ideas:

  • how to bypass the Styx whale guarding the harbor exit (Betran)
  • how to gain access to a panzer ship (Belchion)

(These two items only make sense in the context of the adventure, obviously. In your own campaign, you need to determine what might tempt your players and their characters.)

Also note that the devils will have tried to prevent the simple removal of curses and the simple circumvention of poisoning. They can be outwitted, but it shouldn’t be easy. Make players work for a release from the curse!

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2012-11 Book Club

What: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

When: 28 November, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Bistro Lochergut (tram 2+3 ‘Lochergut’)

How about another Classic? With a capital C? The other day my Spanish teacher waxed poetic about it, to the point that I decided I really ought to read this sometime. Not in Spanish yet :-( but translations to just about any language you read should be readily available. Wikipedia article (also includes links to the full text as well as audio recordings): Don Quixote

Update: Another esteemed member of our book club read it years ago and found it a royal drag at the time. Hmmm. Other views from anyone? Comment (Martin): I have tackled this during my exchange year in Alcala de Henares (the City of Cervantes) and am still keen to discuss it, but it’s quite hard piece of work to get through him! Comment (Nela): I heard that the Edith Grossman translation is one of the better ones in English. Not sure how many there are. – (Uli) A lot, apparently. Some are discussed and sampled here; Smollett’s seems to be another ‘classic’ translation that’s missing there.

First suggested: Sep 2011

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